Mikey B Trippin: Iceland Airwaves pt. 1

All about last week’s music fest in Reykjavik, from the fresh Icelandic bands to the hard-drinking, glass-smashing hooligans in the streets.

Mikey & Jonsi (600x600)This is my third time trippin to the Iceland Airwaves music festival. The scenery, culture and women mesmerize me every time. The capital city of Reykjavik is the largest city on the Nordic, volcanic island. Population 200K and not one Starbucks or McDonalds in sight. I spent lots of time in the Sierra Nevada of California/Nevada as a kid, and Reykjavik reminds me a tad of Lake Tahoe & Reno minus the casinos, hookers and junkie mutants.

My first time around, Air Canada lost my luggage and left me in the cold for three days, meaning I was free-balling (no underwear) for most of my trip. On my first night, I kept warm at some dark watering hole and got my wallet stolen. I felt doomed and swore Iceland had cast a spell on me. I was about to leave out of spite, but everything changed for the better after bumping into Jónsi of Sigur Rós on my last night. Hammered, I bowed and kissed his feet and gabbed about Montreal, drugs and men. The next year, I literally bumped into Björk after accidentally stepping on her foot while watching Purity Ring at the Reykjavik Art Museum. I politely apologized and she gave me the most awful stink-eye ever.

Reykjavik by day
Reykjavik by day

The Food

Fish is big here. Fermented shark (Hákarl) has this hella raunchy smell, but they live by it in Iceland. For an über-progressive country, I was blown away by the overabundance of love for hot dogs, doughnuts and Coca-Cola. If you’re on a budget, hot dogs will fill you but might kill you. Thai and sushi are also popular here, but whatever you do, stay away from the pizza — it just doesn’t taste right. The lobster soup is a must.

The Drinks

Bars close at 1 a.m. on weekdays, but I’ve never seen them closed on weekends. I’ve never seen a police officer in my three years of visiting. The vikings on steroids come out on the weekends, and they drink anywhere they want and usually stain the city streets with broken glass. I thought I was walking on ice Sunday morning, but it turned out to be broken bottles of vodka. Drinks are expensive, so your best bet is to hit up the airport duty free store and pack your flask to keep you warm.


Indie music is considered mainstream in Iceland. As for the locals, they all have something unique about ‘em but share a similar spirit. The wind is very strong and loud out here — it’s sorta the soundtrack to Iceland, and you can hear a calming/vibing breeze in their music.  I had a thing for Icelandic fresh-bait bands this year; this is what I gathered for you.

Iconography in Reykjavik
Iconography in Reykjavik

Samaris has this Montreal/Arbutus vibe. Three teenagers mixing synch and clarinet and some head-in-the-clouds moments.

Sóley is the talk of the town. Her live set is very quiet and minimal as she serenades us with her dreamy, imaginative stories filled with girly stuff.

Vök is a duo that was completely new to me. Imagine an Icelandic version of the XX with Tegan and Sara-style vocals.

Oyama. I saw them three times, simply ‘cause they have everything that makes me feel complete. Shoegaze, grunge, cute chick and out-of-tune harmonies that tickle me inside-out.

Halleluwah. Singer and friend Raketa is my favourite frontwoman since Dusty Springfield. Two live drummers keep the beats solid as Rakel keeps the heartbeats skipping out of control. They’re the only Icelandic band showcased by M for Montreal @ Iceland Airwaves. I had the honor to carry and stow her fancy fur coat at various locations for most of the festival (blush).

The Vintage Caravan. Teenage stoner rock at its best. Their new video is by far one of my favourites this year. They told me the director of the clip is an American pro skater who spends a lot of time in Iceland.

I’d like to write about Prins Póló and Hjaltalín, but I’ll let you be the judge Nov. 22 @ la Sala Rossa in Montreal, with Thus:Owls. Cult MTL will be co-presenting these bands with Iceland Airwaves and M for Montreal.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Mikey B Trippin tomorrow, feat: More bands, hangs with Mac DeMarco & Damien of Fucked Up and funky Icelandic bowel movements. ■

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